out of Five
Running time: 85
Nerve-jangling horror flick that wrings maximum scares out of its simple premise, thanks to strong direction and superb performances from Speedman and Tyler.
What's it all about?
Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman play Kristen and Hoyt, a young couple who arrive at James' family's remote lake house after attending a friend's wedding reception. However, Kristen has just turned down James' marriage proposal and the couple are barely speaking to each other.
Just as they're about to make up, they're rudely interrupted by a strange girl (Gemma Ward) knocking loudly on their door at 4am, asking for someone called Tamara. The situation rapidly goes from bad to worse and soon the couple find themselves terrorised by three masked strangers.
Although not officially a remake (the script was written as far back as 2004), The Strangers is extremely similar to last year's French 'hoodie horror' Them – both films have a couple terrorised by unseen strangers in a remote location and both films begin with loud banging noises outside the house. Both films also purport to be based on true stories but, at least in the case of The Strangers, that appears to be Fargo-style misdirection.
Writer-director Bryan Bertino orchestrates some extremely suspenseful scenes and builds tension brilliantly throughout - this is heightened by small but important details, such as never showing us the attackers' faces and never having them speak. The performances are equally good – Speedman is weedy enough so that you doubt his ability to play the hero, while Tyler proves she can run and scream with the best of them.
That's not to say the film is perfect – for one thing, the framing device robs the film of some of its suspense, while a sequence involving James' friend (Glenn Howerton) being in the wrong place at the wrong time is badly edited so that its shock moment is rendered predictable and gets unintentional laughs.
The Strangers is a smartly directed horror film that delivers plenty of nerve-jangling suspense and will have you tensing up at things that go bump in the night.
The Strangers (18)